A US judge has rejected English singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran’s move to dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of plagiarising Marvin Gaye’s 1973 classic Let’s Get It On for his 2014 hit Thinking Out Loud.
In a decision made public on Friday (Australian time), US District Judge Louis Stanton in New York said a jury should decide whether Sheeran, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Atlantic Records should be liable to the estate and heirs of the late producer Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Let’s Get It On with Gaye.
Judge Stanton found “substantial similarities between several of the two works’ musical elements,” including their bass lines and percussion, and said it was in dispute whether the harmonic rhythm of Let’s Get It On was too common to deserve copyright protection.
He also said ordinary listeners might view the songs’ “aesthetic appeal” as the same, despite defence arguments that Thinking Out Loud was characterised by “sombre, melancholic tones, addressing long lasting romantic love” while Let’s Get It On was a “sexual anthem” radiating positive emotions.
Jurors “may be impressed by footage of a Sheeran performance which shows him seamlessly transitioning between [the songs],” Judge Stanton wrote.
Sheeran has denied copying from Gaye.
Representatives for Sheeran and Atlantic did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sony/ATV spokesman Paul Williams declined to comment.
Pat Frank, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said his clients were looking forward to their day in court “when this matter is tried”.
Gaye was fatally shot by his father in 1984 at age 44.
Judge Stanton oversees two lawsuits accusing Sheeran of lifting from Gaye’s song.
In the other case, Structured Asset Sales LLC, which owns one-third of Townsend’s estate, sued last June for $US100 million ($143 million) in damages.
Sheeran, 27, has also faced infringement claims over his songs Photograph and Shape of You.
You decide: Watch Sheeran transition between the songs: